The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are a historic institution serving as Canada’s National Police for the past 150 years. Among their various services, Underwater Recovery, Emergency Diver Response and Search & Rescue missions are crucial to managing emergencies which occur in Canada’s many waterways.

The highly skilled Police Underwater Investigators (PUIs) are trained to deal with extreme, arctic conditions in remote regions. They often employ ROVs and robotic manipulators for operations where human diver intervention is either impossible, or too high-risk.

Recently, a tragedy in a remote region of Nunavut occurred where a road worker operating a large bulldozer plunged through ice to a depth of 160m, where he was inaccessible to emergency response teams. The fatal accident was initially attended by the British Columbia (BC) RCMP who deployed their ROV to locate the bulldozer, assess the scene and conduct a recovery mission. Unfortunately, during these dives the ROV became irretrievably entangled in a Polysteel line and the National Underwater Recovery Training Centre (NURTC) was called to assist.

Skilled PUIs, Sgt. G.E. (Jay) White and Corporals Todd Kaufmann and Steve Wells from NURTC arrived, equipped with a Seamor Chinook ROV integrated with Reach Robotics’s Alpha 5 manipulator. They set about planning and rehearsing a recovery mission, suspending the Chinook beside a bulldozer and practiced opening the door using the Alpha 5 with great success.

Simulating and rehearsing the recovery mission
Simulating and rehearsing the recovery mission

As a Canadian ROV developer, Seamor Marine understands the harsh climates faced by their local emergency services and developed the Chinook ROV to withstand arctic conditions while remaining versatile and configurable. Together with the Reach Alpha 5 – the world’s smallest, most dexterous 5-function manipulator, the robotic system drastically reduces risk to human divers in harsh environments while diving deeper and remaining submerged for longer periods.

Having sufficiently prepared for the mission ahead, The NURTC team began by deploying their Chinook vehicle and 5-function manipulator to retrieve the original ROV. Configured with the Rope Cutter end effector, they used the Reach Alpha 5 to sever the Polysteel line, surfaced the tangled ROV and cleared the workspace of obstacles and hazards.

Next, the vehicle was deployed again to locate the site of the accident. Using a Seamor Marine dual function grabber to steady the ROV against the bulldozer, the Reach Alpha 5 manoeuvred the door-handle 90° downwards, opening the door and allowing for the victim’s body to be recovered.

The tragic accident and challenging retrieval mission came to a resolve with the victim’s body returned to family. The operation was recorded as the deepest successful recovery in RCMP history, and their first above the Arctic Circle. Reach Robotics is proud to partner with pioneering ROV manufacturers like Seamor Marine and assist with significant Search and Recovery operations conducted by RCMP and emergency services worldwide.

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